Honey, Mud, Maggots, and Other Medical Marvels


Full Title: Honey, Mud, Maggots, and Other Medical Marvels – The Science Behind Folk Remedies and Old Wives’ Tales

Authors: Robert and Michele Root-Bernstein

Genre: Reference/History

Page Count: 279

Publication Date: 1997

Summary: This book covers the history of folk medicines that have been dismissed by most people as outdated but that modern medicine has proved to be beneficial.  Topics covered include: maggots, honey and sugar, mineral water baths, eating clay and earth, bloodletting, leeches, pus, licking wounds, urine therapy, circumcision, contraception, and cellophane bandages.

Recommended: Yes.  The information is researched very well and the topics are thoroughly covered.  However, the authors get a little opinionated about the changes that need to be made in medicine in the last few chapters.

Watch Out For:  One use of the word “damn” and the chapter on contraception talks about sexuality in various forms.

Noteworthy Excerpts:  “One of the most common recorded uses of earths is as a food supplement during periods of famine, for in addition to its mineral content, a small amount of clay will remain in the stomach for a long time, dulling the appetite.”      “From the mid-1970s to the present, leeches have been used in tissue transplants after skin loss, in breast reconstruction after mastectomy, in the treatment of periorbital hematomas, or severe black eyes, in the reduction of postoperative swelling, and in the reattachment of of severed fingers, scalps, ears, lips, and penises when surgical repair of veins is incomplete or impossible.”

It’s Only A Flat Tire in the Rain by Max Davis


Full Title: It’s Only a Flat Tire in the Rain – Navigating Life’s Bumpy Roads with Faith and Grace

Genre: Christianity

Page Count: 165

Publication Date: 2001

Summary: Along with anecdotes and easy-to-understand Bible stories, this book offers principles to rise above the trials in your life and connect more fully with God.

Recommended: Yes.  This is a fast and simple read. The author shares his own doubts and failures and comes across as relatable.

Watch Out For: No problems here.

Noteworthy Excerpts: “People who are hurting don’t need our lectures or sermons. They need our grace, hope, compassion, practical help, and support.”   “It’s okay to dump on God all your questions, doubts, anger, guilt, grief, or whatever. God can handle it.”

Hatchet by Gary Paulsen


Genre: Fiction

Page Count: 186

Publication Date: 1987

Summary: Brian Robeson, a 13-year-old boy, is flying to see his father shortly after his parents’ divorce.  His pilot suffers a heart attack and Brian’s plane crashes into the Canadian wilderness.  Brian is left to fend for himself with only the things he had on his back at the time of the crash.

Recommended?  Yes.  Almost every chapter has some sort of problem that Brian must solve so the story keeps your interest.  This would make a great addition to a classroom library; there is a reading guide at the end.  The only thing that I didn’t like was the writing style at some points – in order to portray Brian’s thoughts, some of the sentences are choppy and repetitive.

Watch Out For: One instance of the word “damn” and a suicide attempt.

Noteworthy Excerpts: “And he was, at that moment, almost overcome with self-pity. He was dirty and starving and bitten and hurt and lonely and ugly and afraid and so completely miserable that it was like being in a pit, a dark, deep pit with no way out.”    “The smell was one of rot, some musty rot that made him think only of graves with cobwebs and dust and old death.”

Grit by Angela Duckworth


Full Title: Grit – The Power of Passion and Perseverance

Genre: Psychology

Page Count: 333

Publication Date: 2016

Summary: Through anecdotes and psychological research, the author explores what it takes for people to succeed – in school, in the Scripps National Spelling Bee, as a West Point cadet, for people in general.  Is talent what is really important or can effort make up for lack of talent? How do people achieve their goals? The author explains what it takes to make yourself “grittier” and how to encourage “grit” in the people around you – whether you are a CEO, a coach, a teacher, or a parent.

Recommended?  Yes.  This was recommended to me by my brother-in-law (who is also a teacher) and I found the research fascinating.

Watch Out For: No problems here.

Noteworthy Excerpts: “Without effort, your talent is nothing more than your unmet potential. Without effort, your skill is nothing more than what you could have done but didn’t.”    “You must zero in on your weaknesses, and you must do so over and over again, for hours a day, week after month after year. To be gritty is to resist complacency.”

The Noel Diary by Richard Paul Evans


Genre: Fiction

Page Count: 283

Publication Date: 2017

Summary: Jacob Churcher, a famous author, hasn’t seen his mother since she kicked him out of the house when he was sixteen years old.  When he finds out that she has passed away, he has to return to his childhood home to take care of the estate.  He finds a diary that ends up leading him on a journey to find his roots as well as true love.

Recommended: Yes.  It was a nice, quick read over the holidays.  Some of the romance in the story was cliche, but the rest of the plot was interesting.

Watch Out For: Child Abuse, Suicide Attempts

Noteworthy Excerpts: “This time I drove a turbo Porsche Cayenne, which is basically a rocket disguised as an SUV. I can’t remember the last time I’d driven the speed limit.”     “I was drunk.’ ‘Sometimes it takes a little alcohol to be honest.”

The Girls of Atomic City by Denise Kiernan


Full Title: The Girls of Atomic City: The Untold Story of the Women Who Helped Win World War II

Genre: History

Page Count: 386

Publication Date: 2013

Summary: You probably already know that World War II ended with the atomic bombing of Japan, but have you ever wondered how the United States got to that point?  How were the atomic bombs created? Who were the scientists who discovered nuclear fission? Who worked in the factories in a small town in Tennessee to purify the plutonium and uranium needed to fuel the bombs? This true story follows the lives of the key players (many of them women) who helped set in motion one of the largest scientific discoveries of the century.

Recommended: Yes, particularly if you are interested in World War II or women’s history.  Be sure to check out the interactive links at the end of the book for more pictures and speeches as well as fun book club ideas.

Watch Out For: Racism and Segregation, Government-funded human experiments, two instances of the word “damn”

Noteworthy Excerpts:  “When had Americans ever built a city whose sole purpose had to be kept secret, not only from the outside world but from the vast majority of its own inhabitants?”   “He remembered the Secretary saying that the reason for the Project was to end the war, and to do so ‘more quickly than otherwise would be the case and thus to save American lives.”

The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne


Genre: Classic Fiction

Page Count: 236

Publication Date: 1850

Summary: Hester Prynne has committed the sin of adultery in Puritan New England and  she has conceived a child out of wedlock and will not disclose who the father is.  The book explores the themes of public punishment, guilt, sin, and secrecy.

Recommended: Yes.  I read this in high school and did not fully appreciate the novel because one character comes across as weak and selfish.  After rereading it again to teach the novel, it is apparent what a strong heroine Hester Prynne is.

Watch Out For: No problems here.

Noteworthy Excerpts: “A look so intelligent, yet inexplicable, so perverse, sometimes so malicious, but generally accompanied by a wild flow of spirits, that Hester could not help questioning at such moments, whether Pearl was a human child.”    “Misshapen from my birth-hour, how could I delude myself with the idea that intellectual gifts might veil physical deformity in a young girl’s fantasy!”

Really Happy! by Jim Reese


Genre: Poetry

Page Count: 73

Publication Date: 2014

Summary: Jim Reese is a South Dakota college professor who also teaches at the local prison.  His witty insights about these particular events come across in this volume of poetry.

Recommended: Yes.  I love poetry and I found myself rereading particular lines because they captured a particular feeling or moment so perfectly. I especially  enjoyed the poems about Yankton.

Watch Out For:  The speaker in some of the poems is stereotypically male so some of the poems come across as a bit sexist.

Noteworthy Excerpts: “At the head of the line, buying a twelve of Pabst,/ a hairy, overweight man with a plumber-crack/ and a t-shirt two sizes too small/ drops a quarter on the ground.”    “And on the eyelids of one man there are two tattoos that read – GAME OVER”

Pocket Full of Colors


Written by Amy Guglielmo and Jacqueline Tourville

Illustrated by Brigette Barrager

I don’t normally review children’s books on this blog unless they are exceptional.  When my 6-year-old daughter and I read this book, we both agreed it was the best book we had read together in quite a while.

This is the story of Mary Blair. Mary worked for the Walt Disney Company during the Great Depression.  She loved bright, vibrant colors, but the men around her thought children only wanted black-and-white cartoons.  She eventually became so frustrated that she left the company to pursue other things, but Walt Disney himself called her on the phone one day because he felt she was just the person for a special project he had in mind – one that involved many fantastic colors.

We loved this story about never giving up on your dreams, embracing the things you are passionate about, and shooting for the sky, but the illustrations really make the book. Two thumbs up, all the way around.


The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald


Genre: Fiction

Page Count: 180

Publication Date: 1925

Summary: The classic American love story. Jay Gatsby has built the perfect life for himself except for one thing – he is watching his beloved from afar.  This book has something for everyone – love, betrayal, murder, crime, money and fantastic parties.

Recommended: YES.  At almost one hundred years old, this book still has a modern feel and you will find yourself rooting for Gatsby until the very end.

Watch Out For: There are a few instances of racism due to the time period in which the book was written.

Noteworthy Excerpts: “She got up slowly, raising her eyebrows at me in astonishment, and followed the butler toward the house. I noticed that she wore her evening-dress, all her dresses, like sports clothes – there was a jauntiness about her movements as if she had first learned to walk upon golf courses on clean, crisp mornings.”      “It was all going by too fast now for his blurred eyes and he knew that he had lost that part of it, the freshest and the best, forever.”